Archive | November, 2015

Young San Francisco and Houston Dancers

23 Nov

Last year San Francisco Ballet School and the Houston Ballet Academy commenced a two-week exchange for their advanced students, Called Houston Ballet II and in San Francisco Ballet School Trainees. This past late October and early November the exchange occurred in San Francisco with two performances scheduled as the climax of the exchange.

Overall responsibility was shared by the artistic directors, Stanton Welch for Houston and Helgi Tomasson in San Francisco with the details arranged by Shelly Power, House Ballet Academy’s director and Patrick Armand, SFB’s Associate School Director. The nitty-gritty of scheduling and rehearsals clearly was the province of Claudio Munoz and Sabrina Lenzi from Houston and Wendy Van Dyck in San Francisco. Additionally, James Sofranko, San Francisco Ballet soloist, contributed his second work for the young local dancers. Both November 6 and 7 performances were seen in the Lew Christensen Studio at the Franklin
Street location of San Francisco Ballet.

Houston Ballet II comprised thirteen dancers, with three dancers from the Ballet Academy. San Francisco Ballet also had thirteen trainees augmented by several advanced SFB students for the Handel finale. The Houston dancers are on the smallish side, San Francisco’s taller, with the exception of one or two young Asian women .

I saw the November 7 performance, comprised of three works: Sofranko’s Means to an End; Welch’s The Long and Winding Road, ending with Helgi Tomasson’s Handel- A Celebration.

James Sofranko’s Means to an End utilized eight dancers in interesting stop, start, parallel stage movements, entrances and exits down stage left and upstage right as I remember. I found my interest piqued, but need to see it again – I am not that good on a quick first take. The dancers were Blake Johnston, Larkin Miller, Yumi Kanazawa, Joseph Warton, Natasha Sheehan, Nathaniel Remez, Shane Lazarus and David Occhipini

Beatles Go Baroque by Peter Breiner provided the musical background for Stanton Welch’s The Long and Winding Road with titles like Michelle, And I Love Her, Fool on the Hill, Paperback Writer, Here Comes the Sun, Carry That Weight, songs which must mean something to Beatles fans. The dancers slipped in an out of the improvised wings, at least three on each side as I remember.

Of the Houston Dancers my program showed marks for Daniel Durrett, Larkin Miller, and Anabel Katsnelson, along with Alexandra Burman and Jack Thomas. This was because they were featured in Handel A Celebration, an early Helgi Tomasson piece for San Francisco Ballet. A number of the level 8 dancers also participated, since it was a piece designed as a finale for the entire company.

I love the music, with Tomasson’s arm sweeps carryimg through Handel’s capacity for grand sound, a definite declarative phrasing. Annabel Katsnelson of Houston danced section IV, which I would swear was Elizabeth Loscavio’s nimble contribution. Madison Young and Syvert Lorenz Garcia undertook the diagonal approaches once danced by Joanna Berman lower stage left and Anthony Randazzo from upper stage right, the music to which the song “Where’er You Walk” were added, conjuring court costumes fashioned from elegant brocades.

When the program was over and after generous applause, the dancers introduced themselves. Name and age came out strong, but diffidence tended to swallow their city or country of origin, save one husky San Francisco trainee.


Diablo Ballet’s 22nd Season November 14

23 Nov

Plucky Diablo Ballet acquired a new venue last year with the 400-seat Del Valle Theater, which I understand is a former school site. A walker dependent on public transportation like myself, Contra Costa County has a bus system but the hours are not solicitous to theatre goers. I am lucky to have friends like Richard and Elizabeth Sah to pick me up at BART. Richard, a balletomane of three decades plus, has served on the  Diablo Board for several years.

A good portion of Diablo Ballet’s pluck emanates form Lauren Jonas, the artistic director, backed by Erika Johnson, a former dancer like Lauren and now in charge of development. Both are alumna of Marin Ballet in one of its most productive periods, a time they shared with Joanna Berman who serves as Diablo Ballet’s regisseur.

While the company’s season is short, three or four weekends a year at most, the community outreach has been steady; the company members are accessible after performances to chat with audience members who linger over coffee, tea and batches of cookies baked by steady supporters. This year has seen the start of a Teen Board, meeting monthly to plan its own brand of community involvement. Clearly, Diablo Ballet, now in its 22nd season, is a genuine, small scale community ballet ensemble and promises to continue flourishing.

Three works comprised the program, starting with Norbert Vesak’s Tchaikovsky Dances Pas de Deux, premiered in 1982 by Cynthia Gregory and Fernando Bujones in Miami June 2, 1982. Staged here by Joanna Berman the Robert Clay de la Rose, the Diablo dancers were Amanda Aeris and Raymond Tilton.

The wide Del Valle Theatre is a definite improvement over the previous Shadelands construction, and one can see how well suited it was for school assemblies. The Vesak stage patterns suggested a deeper stage and more atmospheric lighting . The assignments evoked the long lines of Bujones and Gregoru’s particular stage savvy.  I would rather have seen Diablo’s dancers in tights than in the adapted Empire and bonhommie costume worn by the dancers; I think they would have been more comfortable. The pair danced nicely, but could improve on the transitions of a piece which emphasized line and pauses.

The second piece, AnOther, to Yann Tiersen music was choreographed by Robert Dekkers, Diablo Ballet’s choreographer-in- residence and a company dancer currently sidelined for medical reasons. Premiered in 2008 in Tempe, Arizona, it entered the Diablo Ballet repertoire in January 2014 when Diablo Ballet performed at Shadelands’ Art Center in Walnut Creek.

To semi-lyrical, repetitive music, eight dancers commence in silhouette, lighting amber to café au lait tones, accenting bodies and position changes. Eight dancvers were involved: Tatyana Martyanova, Jackie McConnell, Roselyn Ramirez, Mayo Sugano, Aidan de Young, Jamar Goodman, Raymond Tilton, Christian Squires.

I need to see the work again to comment further.

One of the constant features in a Diablo program is at least one number is danced to live music. After intermission, Sean Kelly’s A Swingin’ Holiday, was danced as its 2015 Edition. The swing sounds were provided by the Diablo Ballet Swing Orchestra, directed by Greg Sudmeier, a sixteen piece orchestra comprising saxaphone, trumpets, trombones, piano, bass and of course drums. Three dancers cavorted down the left aisle, a girl with a pink pom-pom bobbing on a stem attached to a blue Jackie-type hat,  her short blue dress an attitude to match, flanked by Jamar Goodman in a generous yellow zoot suit to her right and a similar suit in red on her left worn by Aidan de Young, who later danced up a storm in a solo combining technical virtuosity and jazzy acuity. The stage was set with table, chairs and the ensemble played out their entrances, encounters and flirtations with ease and energy.

A Swingin Holiday cannot be classified as a deathless perennial by any stretch of the imagination, but the dancers did well by it and it served as a cheery ending

Relief in Sight

8 Nov

Do you receive too many catalogs and circulars, no matter how many times you write in the little e-mail box on the company’s website you want your name deleted?

A for instance are the companies in Jessup PA and Chelmsford MA which circulate your name amongs what seem to be an unending number of their enterprises.

Well, one company suggested I got to page 29 in their catalog to learn how to opt out of its mailing list.

I followed their advice and went to:

I registered my name and began to look up unwanted catalogs by the alphabet — what a slew under each letter!  I found three or four at first pass, filled out the necessary, and was informed to allow ten weeks to effect the change.

If you need it, try it, I’m sure you’ll like it. The environment will thank you, the mail person will enjoy a lighter load, the recycling bin will possess less and the company won’t be bothered with exasperated e-mails from old harpies like me.

San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts

7 Nov

The most positive outcome of November 5’s hearing on the fate of seven proposals for the rehabilitation of The Palace of Fine Arts was that San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Commission and staff paid due attention to the outpouring of comments regarding the fate of the 1200 seat theater in the graceful relic of the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition.

Comments by supporters of the the Center for Global Arts and Culture’s proposal were responsible  for the decision that the 1200 seat theatre will remain in situ and needs to be incorporated in any final proposals.

This information was delivered in Room 416 at San Francisco’s City Hall presided over by Commission President Mark Buell and I believe Gloria Bonilla, the only non-native member of Rec and Park’s Commission.

A list of the experts who evaluated the seven proposals was read, including real estate agents and a theatre manager. I wished the Commission had supplied us with their names on a third piece of paper attached to the list of items on the agenda, of which 4 and 5 concerned the fate of the proposals. Clearly stated fiscal backing weighed heavily in the decision of the three proposal selected.

Headed by Robert Cole, former executive director of Cal Performances, and Julie Mushet, Executive Director of World Arts West, a number of the hearing attendees presented the case to include The Center for World Arts and Culture as number four to submit proposals.

Individuals providing their two-minute comments included homeowners in the nearby Marina area and individuals native to San Francisco. Most favored  the Palace’s use as a museum to tell the history of San Francisco. Only one  had experience in complex operation of a museum, representing almost a clear divide to the performing arts advocates. They also  represented San Francisco prior to The Free Speech Movement and the monumental mid-twentieth century shift in the arts and in society at large.

Robert Cole made the point that none of the three proposals selected by the Commission reflected any knowledge or experience in managing a theatre. It was clear the proposals for food concessions lacked the expertise that Alice Waters gave  for the Center for Global Arts And Cultures. Cary Shulman, Administrator for the City’s Art Funds, as  part of the Center’s Boards of Directors, was ignored.

One woman urged the Commission to examine the phrasing of the retention of the theatre to ensure it remains in its existing location, size and with the necessary enhancements proposed by the Center for Global Arts and Culture.

President Mark Buell rejected inclusion of the Center for Global Arts and Culture’s request for final proposal submission stating the advisers were experts and it would be “unfair” to the remaining three rejected proposals, proposals which markedly veered from the original use of the building in 1915 — which was for ART.

A suggestion was made that the accepted three proposals made use of the theatre expertise of Cole and Mushet.

All I can say is “Stay Tuned,” and “Pray!”